Various Venues

The countdown on the art season usually begins in Arizona when winter visitors forsake Scottsdale and go back East—about April 1.

This year everybody stayed an extra month, and many are still patrolling the galleries in the middle of May. Notable survival, contrary to predictions, was the recently opened modernist Main Street Gallery in Scottsdale, which began to show a profit when only six months old and attracted New York as well as local buyers for one-man exhibits of Roosevelt Woods (with assemblages and blustery oils making strong social comments) and Dagny Yares, (with fluent yellow-white nudes, sinuous but not trite in conception or execution).

With the splash announcement this late in the season of a new art gallery in a shopping-center department store, Doris Heyman’s indications were that the vast numbers of new walls going up in the booming new communities fringing Phoenix were soaking up paintings in carload lots. Initial selections were typical Parisian warm-overs of Utrillo and Dufy.

Phoenix Art Museum, with standing room only crowds at Sunday concerts, made special showings of the drawings of Joseph Stella, and the paintings and sculpture of Arizonan, Dr. Harry Wood. The Stella drawings ran the full gamut from his 1905 illustrations of immigrants just off the boat, to the futurist studies of Brooklyn bridge on which his fame rested. There was a good dose of Renaissance draughtsmanship in his faces, along with Latin sentiment, and in the intricate interlacings of his bridge drawings, a bit of the Imperial Roman engineer, cross-fertilized with Piranisi. It is hard, however, to square his tenderness for his fellow “foreigners” and his romantic nocturnes of Pittsburgh steel mills, with the angry old bull dog in a black Fedora, which he appears to be in the last self-portrait just before his death. While not a major artist, he serves as a vigorous reminder of the riches poured into the bloodstream of American art by generations of gifted immigrants.

Stimulating local art controversy again arose in Yuma, Arizona, when an assemblage by artists Sgt. Leonard West, 26-year-old Marine Sergeant, won the sweepstakes award at the Yuma County Fair. The prize-winning piece featured a stack of condensed milk cans which caused one local citizen to write to the Yuma Sun, blasting the “exhibition of trash.” He then followed with the suggestion: “Why not give each exhibitor a ribbon?” A second correspondent joined in with: “A thing like this should not go unchallenged by people who associate art with something of talent, taste, and beauty.” Which prompted a third writer to add: “I’m wholeheartedly for them . . . a variety of art mediums will help people realize there is more than one way to express an idea or show an object.” Sergeant West agreed. “If I wanted a picture,” he said, “I’d get a camera. My work isn’t a copy of anything. It’s all mine.”

Mounting of a 35 x 10 foot mural in the Bank of Scottsdale drew crowds of quiet observers into the lobby. Painted in the tradition of the French Salon of the 1850’s, the giant narrative shows a confused battle-scene with gold-armored Philistines milling about Samson, who wields a bloody jawbone. A tearful female wearing a dubonnet bikini, clutches the leg of the Philistine captain, in true Hollywood style, and highlights gleam from muscles as if they had been oiled and buffed. The painting is by Dean Chapman of Atlanta, Georgia.

(Our reviewer, Dr. Harry Wood, who is chairman of the Art Department of Arizona State University at Tempe and art critic of the Arizona Republic, is showing paintings at the Phoenix Art Museum, including portraits, landscapes, and semi-abstractions. One of these is a 5 x 8 foot interpretation of the “Gettysburgh Address.” A portrait of Clare Boothe Luce depicts her as both queenly and militantly feminine, while a study of former Arizonan, Surrealist Max Ernst, captured while constructing his famed plaster mannikins outdoors, seems to flow with Arizona sunshine. Twenty-six sculptures of table-top size in wood and stone are part of Wood’s exhibition, of which critic Donne Puckle said: “Much of the sculpture is witty, some tongue-in-cheek, but the outcome is valid. Nowhere has the inherent nature of the material been seriously violated.”)

Dr. Harry Wood

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